Mrs. Rosalind Gertner (Lakewood New Jersey High School Social Studies Department Chairperson, white and Jewish) wrote this in my 1967 yearbook:
“A young woman with your brains and of your race has a very hard line to walk between two worlds. I’ve seldom met anyone with your ability to do it successfully – My best wishes go with you – affectionately, Roz Gertner.”
Thank God for allowing me to grow and flourish among so many wise and wonderful people. At first I thought Mrs. Gertner was ignoring the recent mid-sixties Civil Rights victories. She, like my father, Deacon William Butler, knew that those laws were only tiny baby steps toward a better direction.
My father once said, “Laws don’t change people’s hearts.”
Because of my father, Mrs. Gertner and others, I have survived and thrived on that very hard line Mrs. Gertner described in 1967.
I am ready to begin conversations with red, yellow, black and white about how we humans can start taking steps to be who God wants us to be – you know, loving, kind and considerate to each other.
To my friends and family, we all are part of God’s family, so let us start helping others to be part of that family and to take bigger steps toward the healing needed in the United States and the world; and let’s let God’s love shine through each of us to each other.
There were so many paths I could have taken but had no clue they were open to me. That applies to my personal life and also to what could have been my career, though it would have been a precursor to finally becoming a writer. Before I reached that point I would have liked to be an interpreter of Italian, Spanish, and/or French languages. Perhaps I would have worked in the UN building or translated films for closed captioning. I would have liked living in Europe and worked on document and letter translations. Alas, I settled for the delight in listening to foreign languages being spoken all around me when I went up to New York City wholesale district to buy jewelry for my gift shop.
I would have enjoyed owning and running an Inn, a B & B or a wee hotel with a wishing well in the mountains or a small, picturesque village. It would be a hands-on performance with personal interaction with the guests. In later years traveling through the Rocky Mountains with my second husband, we stayed in a snug motel nestled in a mountainside. It had less than 10 units, with an intimate restaurant attached that was charming. The husband and wife lived there. He was a former cross-country truck driver who now opened and cooked in the restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights. We were lucky to have stopped on a Saturday. I noted to keep it in mind and return when my kids were fully grown and on their own. Life and love got in the way again. I never returned.
After I reached the mid 50s, I traveled to western North Carolina to Blowing Rock, suggested by a friend who felt I would love the town. I did. It too, had a snug motel, less than 10 units, but in the center of town, a half block off Main Street. I felt like I was staying at my aunt’s house. That’s how cozy and personal the feminine touches presented my room. The owner also lived in one of the units. These were the Blue Ridge Mountains. Real Estate in town was affordable. When I next returned a couple years later properties were sky high in price. The town was even prettier but I waited too long.
I learned some Spanish as a teen, loved the melodic sound of the words. The culture came easily when I visited my brother Albert a dozen times over the years in Puerto Rico. Visiting my son Ken in Cadiz, Spain where he was stationed in the Navy reinforced my passion for all things Spanish. I read a lot of books with a Spanish backstory and history early in my fervor for reading. My loosely-laid plan was to retire in Puerto Rico. Instead my brother Albert came to live with me in Macon, North Carolina for his last couple of years before he passed.
Learning Italian came fairly easily. I had been exposed to the culture growing up since all of my girlfriends were of Italian descent. Angelo, my fiancé was born and raised in Italy before coming to America as a 14 year old. I took classes but he refused to speak Italian at home. It would have made the language a bit smoother in my speech. Yet when we were in Italy, he left it up to me to make arrangements. Go figure. When I returned to Italy after he passed over, the language stumbled with a conversation or two. An invisible pat on my back was definite when I held a conversation at a gas station with a kindly older gentleman without struggle or difficulty. Whoo hoo! I did it!
Art always held a special place in my heart. I tried a few times to make room to develop techniques. My first husband fought any attempt I made to improve myself or expand knowledge of any kind. My mother followed the same pattern after I left him. She would not stay in the house with my kids who were by then 14, 12, 10, and 8 so I could attend classes. Again I was forced to stay home and read about artists and the art they created. When I was able to pursue art, nearing my 60s, my writing had already taken all my efforts and challenges. I wondered what my life would have been like if I had never married.
All roads led to writing. It was an early desire that never faded, but kept popping up here and there to keep the fire smoldering until I was able to pursue it, to learn the craft, then to finally share what I learned with others.